During his stop in Burma earlier today, President Obama repeatedly mispronounced the name of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate and former political prisoner who has led the struggle for a free and democratic Burma.
From the Associated Press:
As Obama stood next to the world’s most recognized democracy icon, he mispronounced her name repeatedly.
Ever gracious, Suu Kyi did not correct her American guest for calling her Aung YAN Suu Kyi multiple times during his statement to reporters after their meeting.
Proper pronunciation for the Nobel laureate’s name is Ahng Sahn Soo Chee.
What’s more, Obama also botched the name of his official host, Burma’s reformist new president, Thein Sein.
As the two addressed the media, Obama called his counterpart “President Sein,” an awkward, slightly affectionate reference that would make most Burmese cringe.
Note to presidential advisers: For future rounds of diplomacy, the president of Myanmar is President Thein Sein – on first and second reference.
Such diplomatic faux pas by George W. Bush would no doubt have sparked peals of outrage and ridicule back home.
The mistake by Obama is even more notable because he tries to please foreign audiences by correctly pronouncing words and names in their languages.
For example, uniquely among U.S. leaders, Obama refers to Pakistan as “Pahkeestahn,” which is closer to the way the country’s name is pronounced by native speakers.